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Often considered to be one of the greatest defensive players in the history of American football, former cornerback and safety Charles Woodson spends more time these days thinking about Cabs and cuvées than picking off quarterbacks and thwarting touchdowns. Almost two decades after launching his eponymous, premium Napa Valley brand, Woodson is releasing a more affordable line from California’s Central Coast. Called Charles Woodson’s Intercept, the wine is being produced in partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. The brand’s aim is to score with an even greater segment of Woodson’s fan base, which extends from the University of Michigan, where he was the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy, to his professional days with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers.
What started your interest in wine?
Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t know anything about wine. I was worlds away from wine country. I didn’t get introduced to wine until I got to the Oakland Raiders in 1998. The Raiders’ training camp was in the Napa Valley. It was pretty eye-opening for me to see this beautiful part of the country that I had never heard of and [to be] around people who drink wine for lunch and for dinner.
What were some of your early experiences?
I just remember the first time when I tried Merlot. I don’t know who made it, but that was all I would drink was Merlot. Robert Mondavi was the first winery that I had ever gone to. I was very impressed. Then I finally tried Cabernet. I was hooked.
Why start Intercept?
My Napa wine is considered high-end, retailing for $85 a bottle. I just ran into a lot of fans who don’t mind spending $85 occasionally, but they don’t want to spend $85 every time they’re trying to drink a little bit of wine. So it was important to have something that people felt good about purchasing on a daily basis.
How’d you pick the name?
Intercept is something that’s quickly associated with [me]. If you’re a fan of football, that’s something I was pretty good at throughout my career.